Margo Berdeshevsky

Alexis Bernaut

No Modifier at All: Margo Berdeshevsky

None. No one is not connected to someone else in the city who was hurt that night or dead. It is the no-degrees of separation or escape. Or times we’ve been borne to. Everyone knows someone

who knew at least one in a city of millions. Open terraces under streetlamps and a fingernail of moon. Tables of friends. A concert by The Eagles of Death Metal and autumn and blood and no

breath and the young. The rifles and a will to end something. Paris, for lovers . . . I open my door to a man I’ve been calling all this week—to fix my door. Hamid, thin as a pencil, flaming as a showgirl.

A face from the projects. A face from the once-upon-colonies. My lock no longer works. These are days when one thinks of closing doors. He stands in my hall, eyes like tunnels and sewers that bend

under the city. Last Saturday there was a carnival bulging in those tunnels. People vowed to dance and to wear costumes and to live unless they die. I wore silk. Rented gowns, and feathers, and masks.

You had to be invited. Steps, underneath our city. I wore red. Who are you, someone whispered in the dark. I don’t know, is anyone’s reply. . . I’m so sorry I have not answered you earlier in the week, Madame.

My sister. The baby one. She is —, was one of— in the café. She came to the birthday for her lover. Her name was Djamila. I had photographed candles and flowers left for the murdered in front of that café, the day

after. I remember that name. Djamila, I tell him. His eyes are sewers, tunnels. He cries. I cry. Destiny, he mumbles so softly I am not sure I have heard. He pulls his satchel of tools into my hall to repair

my door. There is a noise somewhere, that is too loud. We are strangers. He has come to fix my door. Holding one another, until it is over. No modifier, at all.

~
for the Paris massacres in November 2015
Originally published in her book, “Before the Drought” (Glass Lyre Press/ 2017)

 

Pas une virgule à changer

Pas une seule. Pas un seul, pas une seule d’entre nous qui ne soit lié à quelqu’un d’autre dans la ville à avoir été blessé ou tué cette nuit-là. Voilà les non-degrés de la séparation ou de la fuite. Ou de l’époque où nous fûmes mis au monde/dont nous

témoignons. Chacun connaît quelqu’un qui dans cette ville où vivent des millions en connaissait au moins un. Des terrasses ouvertes sous des réverbères et une rognure d’ongle de lune. Des amis attablés. Un concert des Eagles of Death Metal et l’automne

et le sang et lesouffle coupé et la jeunesse. Les fusils et la volonté d’en finir avec quelque chose. Le Paris des amoureux… J’ouvre ma porte à un homme que j’ai tenté de joindre toute la semaine – pour réparer ma porte. Hamid, mince comme un crayon,

aussi flamboyant qu’une danseuse de cabaret.Un visage des cités-dortoirs. Un visage des colonies-du-temps-d’avant. Ma serrure est hors-service. Des jours comme ceux-là, on songe à s’enfermer. Il est là dans mon entrée et ses yeux sont comme des tunnels

et des égouts qui se tordent en-dessous de la ville. Samedi dernier c’était carnaval qui gonflait ces tunnels. Les gens avaient fait le serment de danser et de se déguiser et de vivre à moins qu’ils meurent. J’étais vêtue de soie. Des toges, des plumes et des

masques de location.Il fallait montrer patte blanche. Des marches, sous notre ville. J’étais vêtue de rouge. Qui êtes-vous, murmurait quelqu’un dans les ténèbres. Je ne sais pas, répondait n’importe qui… Je suis vraiment désolé de ne pas vous avoir

répondu plus tôt dans la semaine, Madame.Ma sœur. La plus jeune. Elle est – elle était – parmi les clients du café. Elle était venue fêter l’anniversaire de son amoureux. Elle s’appelait Djamila. J’avais pris des photos des bougies et des fleurs déposées pour les

victimes devant ce café, le lendemain. Je me souviens de ce nom. Djamila. Je lui dis. Ses yeux sont des égouts, des tunnels. Il pleure. Je pleure. Il marmonne c’est le destin, si doucement que je ne suis pas certaine d’avoir bien entendu. Il traîne sa sacoche à

outils dans mon entrée pour réparer ma porte. Il y a quelque part un bruit, un bruit trop fort. Nous sommes des étrangers. Il est venu réparer ma porte. Nous nous étreignons, jusqu’à ce que ça finisse. Pas une virgule à changer. Pas une seule.

                                                en mémoire des massacres de Paris, novembre 2015

Translated into French by Alexis Bernaut

Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York City, often lives and writes in Paris. Her latest poetry collection, "Before The Drought," is from Glass Lyre Press. In an early version, it was finalist for the National Poetry Series. A new poetry collection, "It Is Still Beautiful To Hear The Heart Beat" is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. A hybrid book, "Kneel Said the Night" waits at the gate. Berdeshevsky is author as well of "Between Soul & Stone," and "But a Passage in Wilderness," (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her book of illustrated stories, "Beautiful Soon Enough," received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press.) Other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her works appear in Poetry International, New Letters, Kenyon Review, Plume, The Collagist, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, The American Journal of Poetry, Jacar—One, Mānoa, Pirene’s Fountain, Big Other, among many others. In Europe and the UK her works have been seen in The Poetry Review, PN Review, The Wolf, Europe, Siècle 21, Confluences Poétiques, Recours au Poème, Levure Littéraire. She may be found reading from her books in London, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, at literary festivals, and/or somewhere new in the world. Her “Letters from Paris” may be found in Poetry International, here: https://poetryinternationalonline.com/category/letters/letters-from-paris/… For more information, kindly see here : http://margoberdeshevsky.com

Alexis Bernaut was born in Paris, France, in 1977. He was first published in reviews in 2009. His first collection of poetry, Au matin suspendu, was published in December 2012; his latest book, Un miroir au coeur du brasier, came out in May 2020 at Le Temps des Cerises. His poems appeared in several anthologies worldwide. He is also the translator, among others, of poet Sam Hamill and novelist Earl Lovelace.